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As director of such box office blockbusters as "Jaws" "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Steven Spielberg has demonstrated a remarkable talent for placing ordinary people in the most extraordinary situations. As producer of MGM's supernatural thriller, "Poltergeist," he has done it again conceiving a story about a typical suburban family caught in the center of a terrifying supernatural phenomenon.

"Every fourth person you know has probably had an experience with a poltergeist or a ghost, or knows somebody who has. You just have to ask around," Spielberg noted.

Just as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" explored the mystical world of UFOs, "Poltergeist" ventures into the expanding field of parapsychology. "I call 'Poltergeist' a supernatural thriller much as we called 'Close Encounters' science-speculation," explained Spielberg. "Poltergeists are a lot like UFOs in that there is not one alternative explanation challenging the poltergeist phenomenon."

Another similarity between "Close Encounters" and "Poltergeist" is their setting a typical suburban neighborhood populated by tract homes and middle class families.

"I really based the neighborhood on suburban Scottsdale, Arizona, where I grew up," admitted Spielberg. "It is the lifestyle of suburban America; two-car garages, tract homes and cul-de-sacs, the U-Totem down the street and an elementary school within walking distance. The Freeling family in "Poltergeist" is not atypical of the people I knew and grew up with in Scottsdale."

Virtually all of "Poltergeist" takes place in and around one house and the cameras only leave the neighborhood twice. But if all of this suburban familiarity makes you too comfortable, consider how you felt about taking a dip in the ocean after "Jaws" or how you stared into the sky after "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Once again, Spielberg has set the blissful tranquility of suburbia awry.

"Poltergeist," both the film and the phenomena, treads the thin line between the scientific and the spiritual, a tightrope that scientists and theologians have walked themselves for generations, and an area that Spielberg explored with the oft-cited spiritual tone of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

"'Poltergeist' has some incredibly spiritual things in it," he allowed. "It also has a good amount of humor. But overriding all, is the sheer intensity of terror and fright unloaded on this ordinary family when the spectral light comes to earth, piercing a hole in time and space into their home."

Ghosts? Spirits? Spectral light?

"I took the premise that poltergeists are disembodied spirits or souls from people long since passed, who come back or have never left," he explains. "In our film, they are spirits or ghosts who don't know they are dead, and who need a guide to take them into the next plane of existence through a gateway of spectral light. The terror is intensified with the notion that the phenomenon could happen to anyone."

You can lock your doors and bolt your windows, but Steven Spielberg has done it again.

MGM's "Poltergeist" is a Steven Spielberg Production of a Tobe Hooper film. The screenplay was written by Spielberg, Michael Grais & Mark Victor based on a story by Steven Spielberg. Directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall, the film stars JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson and Beatrice Straight. The film is being released in the United States and Canada by MGM/United Artists Distribution and Marketing.


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